Filling the Missing Gaps in the Indus Water Treaty

1. Introduction

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of India share a complex historical relationship. Apart from a common border, centuries of history and culture, languages and ethnicities, and traditions, Pakistan and India share the waters of the Indus River System.

The partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 resulted in the headwords of the extensive network of canals – built during the British Raj – being placed in India. This led to India becoming the upper riparian and Pakistan the lower riparian in the Indus Basin. The boundaries drawn were in disregard of hydrology since 80 per cent of the areas irrigated by the canals were in Pakistan.

The waters of the Indus River Basin therefore, were a major source of contention between India and Pakistan right from independence. This is evident from the number of water disputes that broke out between the two states as early as April 1948 and even led, at one point, to the unilateral termination of water supplies by East Punjab to the canals crossing into Pakistan. It thus appeared that water would serve as the most likely catalyst for future wars between the two states, given their competitive use of a shared natural resource and enmities rising from a wider conflict.

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